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tv   Asia Insight  NHK World  July 18, 2014 10:30pm-11:01pm JST

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♪ ♪ kyrgyzstan is a small country in central asia. in this very traditional country, one tradition has become a serious social problem.
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it's a practice called bride kidnapping, where kyrgyz women are abducted and forced into marriage. kyrgyzstan has seen a series of tragic suicides by women kidnapped in this way. one brave woman is campaigning to end the kidnappings, munara bekhazarova. >> translator: why should women be dragged away in cars and forced into marriage?
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it's unforgivable. >> each year over 8,000 kyrgyz women fall victim to bride kidnapping. munara provides psychological support to these young victims. she also works to turn public opinion against this tradition. >> translator: many people still believe in this old custom but today it's used to victimized people. i think we should get rid of the customs that achieve nothing except ruin young lives.
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>> munara is headed to talas province in northwestern kyrgyzstan to meet another bride kidnapping victim. her appointment is with a 19-year-old college student. an associate of munara's has been helping this victim. they are to meet in an out-of-the-way hotel to avoid prying eyes. the young woman heard about munara and contacted her because she wants to tell her story. it will be the first time for her to speak about it to anyone outside her family. she was kidnapped two years ago while still in high school.
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later, with the help of her two brothers, the woman returned to her home. she says that she never reported it to the police.
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in kyrgyzstan, once a woman has been in a man's home, she's regarded as having lost her purity. after that, it is considered very shameful if she leaves him. two years after returning home, this woman still hasn't overcome the fear from her experience. munara suggests that she go for counseling. >> translator: people say that
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there are good bride kidnappings and bad bride kidnappings. we handle only cases where women have been abducted by men who are total strangers to them. those cases are clearly criminal in nature. >> the custom of bride kidnapping stretches back to a simpler society and all marriages were arranged. if a couple wanted to marry but the parents chose other partners the man would kidnap a woman, but this was with her consent, a kind of elopement. that was the original form of this tradition. in modern times, however, the old custom has changed and lost its innocent character. this is a kyrgyzstan movie about bride kidnapping. a woman is abducted by a man she
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has never met. he carries her off to his family home. the man's family members surround the woman and place a white scarf, a symbol of marriage, on her head. in many cases kidnappers' families will help them like this. their persuasion continues until the woman gives in. most victims end up accepting the marriage. it's estimated over 8,000 kyrgyz women are abducted each year and forced into marriage. in 2012, a series of incidents rocked the nation.
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in response, the parliament held an inquiry. bride kidnapping was already a crime in kyrgyzstan, but the maximum sentence was three years in jail, a relatively light punishment. this is because bride kidnapping is still generally viewed as a kyrgyz tradition.
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after a long, intense debate between tradition and human rights concerns, the parliament voted to change the law. in january 2013, article 155 of the penal code was amended to increase the maximum penalty to seven years in prison. bishkek, the capital of kyrgyzstan. these are the offices of open line, an npo munara founded in 2009. it provides care and legal aid to victims of bride kidnapping. in open lines' four years of operation, it's gained supporters and associates throughout kyrgyzstan and more and more victims of bride kidnapping are coming forward, wanting to wipe out the practice. munara works with these women, taking the battle into the courtroom.
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>> translator: this trial is under article 155 of the penal code, outlawing bride kidnapping. i want to make this a test case of whether the new law works. i want people to know that the government will protect women. >> munara visits the home of the high school girl whose family has filed the case. aida is only 18, but she allowed our crew to film her because she wants the world to know that some victims of bride kidnapping are fighting for justice in the courts. aida was abducted three times last year by a man she does not know, who lives in another village.
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the first time happened on a road near her home. the second time she was abducted from the street in front of her house. and the third time from here, behind her home.
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aida and her parents brought a case against the man for bride kidnapping. the trial is ongoing. the man was arrested and detained, but he insists he is innocent. he claims that aida came to him willingly, so no crime was committed. his mother also insists this is not a case of bride kidnapping. munara is supporting aida's family, acting as a liaison between them and their attorney. this is the first bride
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kidnapping case to be held after the law was amended to increase the penalties. munara hopes that if they win, it will have a major impact on public opinion. munara was born and raised in a small village in the north of kyrgyzstan. her own parents married through a bride kidnapping, and while growing up, she never saw anything wrong with the custom. >> translator: when i was a child, i never really gave much thought to bride kidnapping. it was only much later that i learned about how many of these husbands became violent to their
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wives and drove them to seek divorce, and i started questioning why we had this custom. why does no one ever consider the feelings of the women? >> after a career as a school teacher, munara joined an organization working to improve the status of women. in 2008, she attended the u.n. commission on the status of women. the commission issued a statement calling on the government of kyrgyzstan to urgently adopt measures against bride kidnapping. >> translator: i decided that first we needed to know the real scale of the problem we are facing here and then we could start trying to reduce the numbers of these cases. >> the year after the u.n.
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commission, munara founded an npo to pursue its objectives. she holds regular public seminars. today, she's talking to 30 local high school and college students and housewives. munara doesn't simply denounce bride kidnapping a crime, she invites them to discuss and analyze the issue for themselves. she describes real world cases of bride kidnapping. this is an actual victim and her father. the father initially opposed the marriage but was eventually persuaded by the groom's family, but then they found out that her husband was physically abusing her every day.
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many victims of bride kidnapping are in their teens. munara continues to meet one on one with these young women to lend her support. >> translator: this girl is being examined by a doctor because the kidnaper struck her in the head. just a little girl, only 16 years old. how could she know what to do? >> the girl's name is kanaiym.
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on her way back from playing at a friend's house, she was abducted and forced to marry a man she had never met before. three months later, kanaiym fled for her life, unable to endure the violent beatings from her husband. after the doctor examined her, she was hospitalized for a month. munara arranged for her to be treated free of charge. >> translator: here is a recording of my interview with her in the hospital. kanaiym's mother launched a court case as soon as she saw what happened to her daughter. today munara is headed karakol to the hometown to support the family.
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along the way she receives a phone call from kanaiym's mother. the court has suddenly summoned kanaiym to appear but no one knows where she is. when munara hears this, she rushes straight to the court. it takes her five hours to get there. kanaiym's mother comes out of the court.
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she says the case wasn't heard today. the court's date is postponed five days. unless kanaiym can be located by then and appear in court, they will have trouble bringing their case. where did kanaiym go? munara tries a mobile number kanaiym called from, the only time she made contact since disappearing. five days later -- kanaiym remains missing. munara has prepared the legal paperwork. she's doing everything possible to give kanaiym's mother the
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advantage in court. then kanaiym's mother and uncle show up with surprising, new information. the man's attorney called the mother to tell her that kanaiym has been at his house since yesterday.
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kanaiym's accused kidnaper lives in a village a 30-minute drive away from the courthouse. munara believes that her presence will only complicate things so she sends the family to retrieve kanaiym without her. all munara can do is wait outside as the family goes inside to pick up kanaiym. 30 minutes later, kanaiym's mother and uncle come back, bringing kanaiym.
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the man's family asked them to drop the case. then as they drive away from the village -- their car is stopped by the police. the police officer is accompanied by several members of the accused's family. the police officer is accompanied by several members of the accused's family. they called the police, claiming that kanaiym's mother is preventing her going to court.
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munara appealed to the police on the basis of the law, and they allowed kanaiym's family to take her home. kanaiym has no reply. munara asks the mother if she
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munara asks the mother if she can speak with kanaiym alone. she wants to find out things kanaiym will be reluctant to talk about in front of her mother.
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kanaiym says she went back to the man's house by herself. this is the opposite of what she said two months ago, when she insisted she'd been kidnapped. munara speaks gently to the girl. kanaiym agrees to go and stay in a shelter run by a local human rights group. there she will get proper counseling.
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>> translator: what matters for kanaiym is not the legal process. the most important thing is to get her out of this abusive situation she's found herself in. now, she's in a safe environment. she'll be able to think for herself and make plans for her future. she needs to continue her education. then she'll be able to make her own decisions. >> as long as bride kidnapping continues in kyrgyzstan, munara will continue her fight to protect the young victims harmed by this tradition. ♪
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. . . welcome to nhk "newsline." i'm gene otani in tokyo. here is a look at some of stories we are following this hour. ukrainian authorities and pro-russian separatists are pointing f over t cras deep grief and shock. people around the globe are paying tribute the airliner. an emergency meeting is being held at the u.n. headquarters. delegates are gathering to discuss thtu


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